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The Pistons dealt their longest-tenured player, Andre Drummond, to the Cavaliers for expiring contracts and a 2023 second-round pick. The Detroit News

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Oklahoma City — When the season started, Pistons senior adviser Ed Stefanski thought the Pistons were in a good position to make some noise. Blake Griffin was coming off an All-NBA season, and with the additions of Derrick Rose, Markieff Morris and Christian Wood, the goal was to be more than the No. 8 seed in the playoffs.

Then the injuries started piling up, eventually with Griffin having surgery, likely to miss the remainder of the season. That, along with subpar play, forced Stefanski’s hand in rethinking the direction, culminating with Thursday’s trade of Andre Drummond to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Brandon Knight, John Henson and a 2023 second-round pick. 

Drummond, 26, was an eight-year veteran and was the longest-tenured Pistons player. The trade stunned him, leading to his emotional response on Thursday.

“If there’s one thing I learned about the NBA, there’s no friends or loyalty,” Drummond posted on Twitter. “I’ve given my heart and soul to the Pistons, and to be have this happen with no heads up makes me realize even more that this is just a business! I love you Detroit.”

Stefanski said Friday that Drummond and his representatives were in the loop on the fact that he was being discussed in trade talks and that he likely would be moved. He said the Cavs entered the picture later Thursday, near the deadline.

That, likely, is what surprised Drummond, who may have thought that he was staying in Detroit.

“The worst thing in the world is to have to trade someone who's been here (for a long time). This is the only place he's been. Emotions are raw,” Stefanski said Friday. “Dre knew he was in trade talks and I was talking to his representatives about different things. Cleveland came in late. I guess you'd have to talk to Dre about what exactly he means. But again, emotions are raw when this stuff happens. I understand that.”

More: Niyo: Selling low on Drummond shows how far Pistons have to go

More: Beard: Pistons make clear their direction with trade of Andre Drummond

More than just the Drummond move, the Pistons were looking to set a new direction on where the franchise was moving in the long term. The Pistons essentially got a second-round pick that will be based on the Golden State Warriors’ record in 2023. It’s not a significant haul, but given Drummond’s uncertain future with a player option for next season, the Pistons didn’t stand to get much.

The Pistons hadn’t previously stated that they were in rebuild mode, but moving Drummond sends that clear signal.

“With the trade of Andre, we are looking to rebuild,” Stefanski said. “What the future holds is going to be interesting. We haven't had the luxury in the last two seasons of having any real cap flexibility. Now we have that. How do we use it? How do we use it wisely? Do you use it on players? Do use it on collecting assets to get players in trades or different avenues?

“So, having this flexibility, the obvious answer is it's great to have it and now let's use it wisely and make the right choices — and the draft is important to us, too. We have our draft pick and we have all our No. 1 picks going forward. And we're going to have the young guys out there.”

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The Pistons traded Andre Drummond to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday, signaling a shift toward rebuilding the roster. The Detroit News

The other burning question was why the Pistons didn’t part with their other expiring contracts, including Derrick Rose, Reggie Jackson, Markieff Morris and Langston Galloway. The simple answer is that the market didn’t bear getting valuable picks for them — if there were any deals out there to be had at all.

Reports indicated that the Pistons were looking for a lottery-level pick for Rose, but the Pistons decided to keep him, mainly for the impact he has on some of the younger players, in leadership and professionalism.

Last season, the Pistons got Svi Mykhailiuk in a deadline deal from the Lakers for Reggie Bullock. They could have gotten two second-round picks, but they open for a pick and Mykhailiuk because they were familiar with his skill set.

“We could have gotten a couple of second-round picks,” Stefanski said. “And you know, maybe they're in the late 40s or 50s. I've been in this long enough to say, ‘What (prospect) name am I going to put that to?’

“You know, we've all got egos and we think we're pretty good talent evaluators, but it's really not that easy when you get a pick in the 50s. So what was exciting about last year was we got a second-round pick, plus we got a name in Svi Mykhailiuk and the front office, we knew him from scouting. … This year, with other people — I'm not going to get into particulars — but you have to have two teams to make a trade and we weren't able to do it.”

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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